I grew up in a house that didn’t go for excess. Rather, we were proud of our thriftiness and resourcefulness. Okay, that’s a lie. When I said “we”, I meant “my parents” – because I wasn’t totally down with my parents miserly ways. Our meals didn’t come with rich sauces and desserts weren’t the norm. We also didn’t over do it with the cheese. As a kid, I’d escape with money in my pockets and stockpile sour candies from the corner store. If there were opportunities for junk food binges, i participated wholeheartedly. But now as an adult, I can appreciate some of those lessons from my childhood. While I still find it hard to have restraint with an open bag of chips, I’m on board with not over doing it with cheese.
Take this mac and cheese recipe which calls for 4 cups of cheese. That’s a whole pound worth. Calories are needed and delicious but I don’t want all the calories in my dinner, so I cut the amount of cheese in half. Be thankful that I didn’t title my post: I Cut The Cheese because I can be immature like that. However, reducing nearly 2 cups worth didn’t ruin this mac and cheese. Maybe because I used an extra strong white Cheddar I didn’t lose any of the flavour. It was still rich, creamy and deliciously cheesy. But if you want to go for that cheese-laden crust (go ahead, gasp at that NYT photo), then go for the full pounder.
What’s also interesting about this recipe is that everything from the cheese to the milk to the uncooked pasta gets mixed up in a bowl, dumped into a baking dish and baked. No need for the extra steps of cooking the pasta and making a sauce. It’s pretty much foolproof. Make sure to serve this rich dish with a green vegetable or two. Even without all that cheese, I like to feel a bit more virtuous. See? Those childhood lessons on austerity live on!
one pot mac & cheese
(adapted from Dinner with Julie who adapted it from the NYT)
1 c cottage cheese
2 c whole milk
1 t dry mustard
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 t salt
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
2 – 4 c aged cheddar cheese, grated (original recipe calls for 4 cups, I used 2 1/2 cups)
2 1/2 c macaroni or other short pasta, uncooked
1 T butter
Preheat the oven to 375F. You probably should butter up your baking dish. I did not and everything turned out fine (well, nothing that a little pan soaking in hot soapy water couldn’t solve).
Blend together the cottage cheese, milk, mustard, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor. In a blender or food processor, puree cottage cheese, milk, mustard, nutmeg, salt and pepper. In a large bowl, combine the milk mixture with the uncooked pasta and grated cheese (reserve 1/4 cup for the topping). Pour everything into your baking dish and cover with a lid or foil. Bake for 40 minutes, give the mixture a stir, dot with butter, and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake uncovered for another 30 minutes or until the pasta is tender and the cheese on top is golden and crusty. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. Serves 8.